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Spring

05/27/02 12:00AM By Madeleine M. Kunin
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Spring has come to Vermont in fits and starts this year - an unpredictable hot spell in mid April, then a blast of cold air and wet snowflakes at the end of the month. Now that it's May, we begin to relax, enjoy the long days, and inhale spring.

The color of the new leaves in the spring is like a wash of light green watercolors, so pale, so fresh, so ready to burst out to their full size. The complex filigree patterns of newly emerging leaves make the tree delicately translucent. Soon it will grow up to be fully opaque, solid green like a blotter, casting a reliable shadow.

Driving on interstate 89 from Burlington to Montpelier, the mountainsides are embroidered with wonderful delicate pastels of pale purples, subtle pinks, and light greens. A large swatch of evergreens provides contrast.

As the buds and new leaves emerge it seems that if I could run my hand across the side of the mountain I would feel the tufted evergreens, the silky white birches. Their trunks stand out like chalk markings on a blackboard. It is not yet a time for walking, except on paths, because the earth is too soggy, too vulnerable in its newborn state.

From one day to the next the grass has turned green and started to grow, ready for the mower. Even the ubiquitous dandelion looks attractive on a spring day, as long as it's not in your backyard. Trillium, lady's slippers, ferns tiny violets, have poked their way out of the soil in the shelter of the woods. A brilliant emerald green patch of moss clings to wet rock, one of the first signs of new growth. It clings with the tenacity that is given to nature.

Each flower, each fern and cluster of moss is a discovery - the wonder of it - that it happens every year, this seasonal transformation of nature from sleep to sunrise.

The flowered odors of spring are a special gift. Winter has a different smell, it can be sharp as steel and clamps our noses. Autumn has its own distinctive sweet smell of decaying leaves which tells us that nature is shutting down in preparation for the cold. Spring encourages us to take deep breaths, as we open up our lungs to the rich and varied perfumes. There is nothing as fresh and rich as the newly cut grass, the turned over loam, which smells like sheets drying in the sun.

And spring is a time of busyness, raking away the remnants of winter's dead leaves, old grass, brown stalks that remind us of winter's powers. It's such an act of trust for the early crocuses, daffodils and tulips to have rejuvenated themselves. Spring is the hopeful season when all the cliches are apt. It is a rebirth, which gives us the feeling that we too, can emerge anew.

Madeleine Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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